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Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Hobsons Bay 2022 Citizens of the Year announced

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Seaholme’s mother Kate De Marco and Administrator Tahlia Kotiau have received the highest award in the community for their actions to ensure food security for vulnerable community members affected by COVID-19.

Hobsons Bay Cr Mayor Peter Hemphill paid tribute to the two women whose actions supported dozens of Hobsons Bay residents at a time when charities and government support networks were overwhelmed by demand.

“Kate and Tahlia were both moved by the growing level of need in our community and took matters into their own hands, finding ways to provide practical and dignified support to those financially impacted by COVID,” said Cr Hemphill.

“They are shining examples of the altruistic spirit and positive energy which has helped our community survive through the darkest days of the pandemic.”

Seeing people in her neighbourhood doing this, Kate established a community pantry in her garage to allow those in need access to food and other basics.

With her passion, energy and determination, Kate mobilised the neighbourhood for the project. With an old pantry, donated fridge and tarp, and a Facebook page created by volunteers to advertise current stock, the pantry was ready to go.

As news spread, Kate’s home was inundated with food donations and families regularly relied on the pantry for their weekly groceries. As well as being a single mother to a 10-year-old child during a pandemic, Kate has dedicated her time to regularly restocking the pantry, collecting donations and building relationships with project partners.

“People take what they need with no questions asked and this is only possible because of the magnanimous generosity of the Seaholme and Altona community who for the last 12 months have ensured the pantry is always stocked,” said Kate.

“Running this pantry is my way of giving back to the community. You don’t have to be wealthy or hold a high-powered job to change the world.”

Throughout the pandemic, Tahlia Kotiau, 24, has been the face of the Williamstown Community and Education Center, a non-profit community learning center and neighborhood house, which provides adult education and a range of social services to people of diverse origins.

Tahlia has spearheaded a number of initiatives to provide practical support to disadvantaged students. Tahlia noticed a number of students who couldn’t afford to eat lunch partnered with Laverton Community Integrated Services to provide free frozen meals to students and residents in need. She also set up a supply exchange for students and staff.

“Many of our students have limited English and tech knowledge and I love finding ways to make their lives easier – such as helping them apply for energy bill rebates or study for their citizenship tests,” said Tahlia. 

“My mum is the greatest inspiration in my life – she is a cancer survivor who has nurtured every aspiration I have ever had. She’s the one I want to make proud.”

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